The "Last Time" vs. The "Next Time"

by Rebecca Underwood

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People come in a wonderful variety of shapes, sizes, and personalities. But, if you look hard enough, most of us fall into one of two categories. We are "Last Time" people or we are "Next Time" people. And that can make all the difference in where our lives may take us.

A few years ago I was walking with a friend along a downtown city street, enjoying our lunch hour. In a moment of generosity, my friend handed five bucks to a gaunt homeless man on the corner. His eyes lit up, he thanked my friend effusively, and he immediately went right past a Burger King into the nearest liquor store. As we stood and watched in disbelief, my friend muttered, "Well, that's the last time I give to the homeless."

I understood her frustration. Her intentions were noble. She had wanted to give a hungry man a meal, not contribute to the woes of an alcoholic. But, should one failed attempt mean the end of her generosity? I didn't think that was the answer then, and I still believe it today.

In real life, we're all going to fail at something now and then, be it a relationship, a home-based business, or any other endeavor. Sometimes it will be a big failure; other times our results just won't be what we expected. The point is, when my friend's efforts failed, she chose the "Last Time" perspective. And anytime we say, "That's the last time...," we are closing a door.

My father is a creative, action-oriented person. Over the years, he has attempted many projects, a few of which failed, but most of which were very successful in the long run. Once or twice I can remember hearing him say, "That's the last time I..." But usually, when confronted with negative results, he'll take the "Next Time" approach. After a good, hard look at his less-than-successful efforts, he'll make plans to try again in a different way. "The next time I'll use heavier wood," or "The next time I'll test-market a wider variety." He's not closing a door, he's opening one. That's what successful people do. They learn from their mistakes and apply that knowledge the next time.

The "Next Time" attitude is contagious. I learned it from my father, as did my brother and sister. We all want to dream. We all need to believe success is possible. And in our case, we learned that it is possible through trial and error. There is no shame in imperfect results; they are simply learning experiences that will help us improve our efforts. Unfortunately, the "Last Time" attitude is just as contagious. As a teacher, I see children every day who have learned to be "Last Time" people by the age of 12 or 13. Failures are permanent for them, and the joy of dreaming, believing, and achieving are already tainted.

Effectively living a frugal life requires a "Next Time" attitude. We have to be self-motivated, creative, and willing to try things until we get them right. And if we want that kind of life for our children, too, then we have to make sure we're demonstrating it. In Texas we call it "getting back on your horse." But in any vernacular, it means learning from your mistakes and trying again.

The next time my friend and I walked down that city street on our lunch hour, we encountered the same homeless man on the corner. This time I pulled an extra sandwich from my lunchbag and placed it in his grimy hand. He wolfed it down as we continued walking, and my friend said nothing. But, the unspoken understanding was there. This was our "Next Time," and it wasn't perfect, but it was definitely better.

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